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Playoff revenge up for grabs while ascending teams look to make their mark in Week 13 of the NFL season

By Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — Week 13 of the 2023 NFL season began with a bang on Thursday with the Dallas Cowboys’ high-scoring victory against the Seattle Seahawks.

With six teams on bye – the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants – it is a shortened schedule but there is still plenty for fans to get their teeth into.

Here’s what to look for this week.

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers are two of the best teams in the NFL this season, and Sunday’s encounter could be a feisty one.

Following the Eagles’ victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship game last season to book their spot in the Super Bowl, San Francisco wide receiver Deebo Samuel called Philadelphia cornerback James Bradberry “trash.”

And when asked ahead of the two team’s rematch on Sunday whether he regrets his choice of words, Samuel wasn’t in the mood for walking back what he said.

“I don’t regret nothing I said,” the 27-year-old one-time Pro Bowler said, per NBC Sports. Although Bradberry played down the comments, telling reporters “it is what it is,” the rivalry between the two teams is evident. Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field could be a melting pot for drama, scores being settled and excellent football.

The Eagles enter with a league-best record of 10-1 and with their quarterback Jalen Hurts coming off his best performance of the season by contributing to five touchdowns in the team’s Week 12 overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills.

After falling short in the Super Bowl last season, Philadelphia look well-placed again to make another deep postseason run with its complete roster rounding into form at the right time. Hurts and his skill position groups has the offense humming, while the defense has ramped up its disruption of opposition.

But the Eagles’ defense will have a serious job on its hands to stop a San Francisco offense which enters as the No. 1-ranked offense in the NFL this season so far.

Second-year quarterback Brock Purdy – who suffered a serious elbow injury during last season’s playoff game against the Eagles – has had his ups-and-downs this year but has been helped by his excellent running back Christian McCaffrey, and pass catchers – Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle – are all enjoying good years.

But ahead of the highly-anticipated rematch, head coach Kyle Shanahan said last season’s clash has no bearing on Sunday’s match.

“You throw it out and start from scratch. If it’s early in the year, but when you have this much tape, you don’t like to watch what they were into last year,” Shanahan told reporters. “I think we’re just both different teams, different styles. You evolve all the time, and you evolve each week.”

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m. ET

Sunday will see two of the league’s ascending teams face off at NRG Stadium in Houston in an encounter which could reveal which team is a real playoff contender.

The Denver Broncos travel to face the Houston Texans with both organizations undergoing recent upticks in form to give their fans hopes of an unlikely playoff run.

Denver is in the midst of a five-game winning run which has vaulted them from disappointment to genuine postseason contenders.

Following an opening to the season which left many thinking it could be another lost year for the storied franchise – in particular after its record 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins – a team-wide improvement has changed perspectives hugely.

Led by coordinator Vance Joseph, the Broncos’ defense has played a vital role in their recent form, creating 15 turnovers in their winning run whilst also allowing just over 16 points a game.

With cornerback Patrick Surtain and safety Justin Simmons leading the secondary in shutting down opposition pass catchers and Baron Browning contributing three sacks and two forced fumbles in five games, they have become a daunting opposition for rival teams.

On the other side, the Texans are arguably the surprise package of the season.

With a first-year head coach, rookie quarterback and unproven surrounding talent, not much was expected, but behind the historic performances of CJ Stroud, the No.2 overall pick in this year’s draft, the Texans have a legitimate shot at reaching the playoffs.

Stroud and his cast of young wide receivers has taken the league by storm, and Broncos head coach Sean Payton says it will be a “unique” task to try to slow down Stroud.

“He’s playing well. When you watch him play, you feel like you are watching someone who is savvy and experienced,” Payton told reporters. “You don’t necessarily feel like you are watching someone in their first year.

“He’s confident, and it’s a dangerous team that way. You have young players. I’ve been through it before with a draft where they have the young receiver [Texans WR] Tank [Dell], who is playing well, the defensive end from Alabama who is playing well and the quarterback.

“They’re having success, and they are 6-5. You definitely see the explosives on tape. They’ve been down late and have come back. There’s a confidence they have that certainly is contagious, and you can see that on film. He’s been impressive.”

Kansas City Chiefs @ Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Week 13’s Sunday Night Football also sees one of the NFL’s in-form teams, the Green Bay Packers, take to the field as they face the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Following a disappointing opening to the season where they lost five of their first seven games, the Packers have now won three of their last four games.

Quarterback Jordan Love – in his first season as starter since the departure of Aaron Rodgers – has looked a man renewed, with his best performance of the season coming last week in the team’s impressive road victory against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.

The 25-year-old quarterback recorded his third game with three touchdowns and no interceptions which is the most for a Packers quarterback in his first 12 starts.

“I think we’re growing, together,” said Love of the offense’s recent success, per the Packers. “Guys are feeling more comfortable in the system, understanding our roles, and now we’re just going out there and playing, executing the plays, and guys are making plays. I think we have a better focus right now about how we’re going to start the game.”

Love and the Packers offense will face a stiff test against the Chiefs defense, one of the most formidable groups in the NFL this season.

Led by George Karlaftis and Chris Jones, they have totaled 37 sacks in 11 games and have played a decisive role in Kansas City’s success this season with the offense uncharacteristically struggling.

Despite being led by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, the team has failed to live up to the high-scoring offensive output of recent years. But Mahomes believes the team is rounding into shape nicely.

“At the end of the day, you’re working for that ultimate goal, which is to win the Super Bowl,” Mahomes told reporters. “You take it week in and week out, but your mentality should be that I’m going to do this today to be better for the next day and for the next day until the Super Bowl comes.

“We have a great game this week, a great challenge and a great environment against a great football team. For us, how can we get better today, so we play that football game and we can find a way to win it that will be towards our ultimate goal which is the Super Bowl.”



Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m. ET

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m. ET

Atlanta Falcons @ New York Jets, 1:00 p.m. ET

Arizona Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. ET

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m. ET

Miami Dolphins @ Washington Commanders, 1:00 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m. ET

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m. ET

Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. ET

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET

Kansas City Chiefs @ Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET


Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 8:15 p.m. ET

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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